Federal Court System Law & Legal Definition


In the United States of America, there are two separate and distinct types of judicial system: the Federal court system, which enforces Federal laws, rules and regulations, applies and interprets the Constitution of the United States and the state court systems which enforce the laws, rules, and regulations of a given state, and applies and interprets the state's own Constitution. These two judicial systems exists side-by-side. < /p>

The U.S. federal courts are comprised of:

U.S. Supreme Court : The United States Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices. They hear and decide cases involving important questions about the interpretation and fair application of the Constitution and federal law. The Court may assert original jurisdiction (that is, decide a case from beginning to end) if the case involves states or a state and the federal government. In exercising its appellate jurisdiction, the Court can hear cases appealed from both lower federal courts and state supreme courts if a case involves an issue of federal law. With respect to cases originating in state court, parties must exhaust their possibilities in the state court system before the Supreme Court will consider hearing a case.

U.S. Courts of Appeals : The 94 U.S. judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a United States court of appeals. Eleven of these circuits are numbered (for example, the Fifth Circuit governs Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana). The twelfth circuit, the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, governs only Washington, D. C., but hears a number of cases involving federal agencies. A court of appeals hears appeals from the district courts located within its circuit, as well as appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws and cases decided by the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims.

U.S. District Courts : The United States district courts serve as the trial courts in the federal system. Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters.There are 94 district courts in the 50 states, Washington, D. C., Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Marinara Islands. Most states have only one judicial district. Larger states can have between two and four districts.

Bankruptcy Courts : Each federal district court has a bankruptcy unit. Bankruptcy actions arise under Title 17 of the United States Code and generally incorporate all claims brought by a creditor against the debtor in the bankruptcy action. In almost all districts, bankruptcy cases are filed in the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy cases cannot be filed in state court.

Apart from the above, Congress has created a number of courts in the federal system that have specialized jurisdiction. For example

  • The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces reviews court martial convictions from the armed forces. Only the Supreme Court of the United States can review its cases.
  • The United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction to hear a broad range of claims brought against the United States. The court was called the United States Claims Court from 1982 to 1992. Many cases brought before this tribunal are tax cases, though the court also hears cases involving litigants who were federal employees and other parties with monetary claims against the United States. An adverse decision in this court is appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
  • The United States Court of International Trade has jurisdiction to hear cases involving customs, unfair import practices, and other issues regarding international trade. This court is a constitutional court.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims reviews decisions of the Board of Veteran Appeals. Appointments of judges last 15 years. An adverse decision in this court is appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
  • The United States Tax Court is a legislative court that resolves disputes between citizens and the Internal Revenue Service. Adverse decisions are appealed to a court of appeals in an appropriate regional circuit.